Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy Stitchy New Year

New Year's has taken me a bit by surprise - I've been so preoccupied by basting my nine patch. That's done! More tomorrow on that.

I did manage to run out to the backyard and take a couple of photos. The snow is deeper than my ankle boots, so I got a bit wet! The light and shadow in this photo of our flower pots make it look like the north pole, rather than just Toronto:

The hydrangea is always photogenic. I love how the two separate snowfalls have layered to give the flower heads pointy hats:

As far as last year's New Year's resolutions go, I am zero for three. Still no finished quilt, after at least five years of resolving to finish one! This year though, I am so sure I will finish at least these two that are basted that I am not even going to make a formal resolution.

Sedona Star is also not finished, as I already discussed. I didn't say, though, how valuable just making the commitment was. Maybe it was still too big a project even for a very determined novice, but it has required me to improve many of my skills, including paper piecing, which I now love!

My unplugged Sabbaths lasted until March. Now, rather than taking a whole day, I am giving myself more "time outs" when I need them through the week. It seems to be working, so that was a valuable exercise too.

Intentions for 2013
  1. Learn hand quilting
  2. Hand quilt one project
Plus there are a few UFOs that are ready to drop that I would like to finish by spring:
The chickens and the yoyos are both slated for hand quilting, so maybe I won't finish them by spring, but at least I'll make a start. After the past year, Collector is feeling extremely easy, so I want to at least get the flimsy done by spring. Depending on how it goes, I may hand quilt that one too.

Right now, though, I am laser-focused on getting these two basted quilts quilted. Starting tomorrow!

Happy stitchy new year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nine Patch Flimsy

Well, here it is, finally. I love that secondary trellis pattern that appears from such a deceptively simple block, even with so many different fabrics. On this one I took the time to trim the nine patch blocks to exactly 6 1/2", and checked those first seams as I paired them with the solid fabric, so that everything was accurate across the row. It seemed time-consuming, but it was totally worth it. The rows went together so well that I did not even have to check all the corners, because I could feel them locking together perfectly as I sewed.

My plan today was to go and buy more safety pins to baste it. But right now it is snowing again, and our garbage bins are blocking the driveway, so I'll see if it looks any better later this afternoon.

All my pins are currently still in Edward's quilt. I am struggling with that one, it is quite heavy with its flannel backing. I think it would be best to work the kinks out of my machine quilting technique with this one first. I had to do quite a bit of thinking and re-organizing to set up my small sewing space for quilting. But, I think I have all the theoretical problems solved, so now it is just practice.

This is my third finished flimsy, but still no finished quilts. This will be the one, though, I'm determined!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Smoky Mountain Santa

Here's the last Appalachian Santa from Mill Hill, the Smoky Mountain Santa. It's been in a partially done state for quite a while - I think I started it 18 months ago while waiting for my car to be smog checked at Canadian Tire - so I am happy to see it finally completed.

I hope everyone has had/is having a great Christmas. Mine has been excellent. Plus, I got an extra present when I logged on today - my blog just passed the 10,000 page views mark! That's a good-feeling milestone.

Back to quilting tomorrow. I've started the machine quilting on Edward's quilt, and the nine patch flimsy just has four long seams left too. My goal is to have them both quilted and bound before the next meeting of my quilt guild at the end of January. Celtic Spring will be a year old next month, so I'd like to finish it before the end of January too, but I don't know if that's reasonable. Everyone has been asking me what I plan to buy in the Boxing Day sales tomorrow, and I've been saying that I really can't even fathom any more new projects right now. I am so ready to close out some of these lingering projects! I am in a finishing frame of mind. Let's hope it lasts. :D

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Blue Ridge Santa

When I saw Jillian's finished Mill Hill ornament Melchior last week, I thought it could be a good way to test out my wrist again too. This is the second of the Appalachian Santas, the Blue Ridge Santa. I stitched it entirely while watching dippy Christmas movies. This was silly fun at first, but believe me, I am WAY past the saturation point on Christmas now!

I have the third one half done and ready for the beads, but I think it will go back in the box for the time being. I'm not sure if I'll be posting again before Christmas or not, so if not,

Happy Christmas!

Related Post

The first Appalachian Santa

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

One Year Blogoversary

Technically, it was one year yesterday, but close enough! The photo here is from our Christmas tree. I just managed this one shot today before the clouds rolled in.

My wrist situation is somewhat better, but not 100%. I've been doing some re-evaluating of my stitching activities as a result! With the blogoversary, the end of the calendar year, and the injury, it seems an appropriate time to consider what's been working and what hasn't.

  1. Blogging in general. I enjoy writing about my creative process, and crafting a post about a project is almost as much fun as the project itself.
  2. Blogging community. I've loved making all my new blogging friends, and I love how we all inspire each other. And, I really love all the encouraging comments!
  3. Blogging as a design tool. This has been an unexpected benefit of my blog. Like a quilter's reducing glass, the blog lets me step back from a project and evaluate it more impartially. I think several improvements have been implemented as a result!
Not Working
  1. Book Reviews. The book reviews are a lot of work, and while they do seem to bring in traffic, I'm not sure it is the right traffic. Going forward, I'm only going to review books that have made a difference to my work. Plus, the affiliate program with The Book Depository has not been successful, so I'll be removing those links soon too.
  2. BOMs and Quilt Alongs. I started this blog to follow my progress on the 2012 TQS BOM Sedona Star. I love the design, and I'm still going to finish it, but I've learned that I need to get my head around the whole project first, before I can really get started. All those waffling posts at the beginning of the year would have been avoided if I could just have read all the instructions at once. I think BOMs are a great way to produce a really spectacular quilt, but from now on I'll be waiting until the whole thing is available before I decide whether to make it.
  3. Motivation. I have to say that I did think that blogging would shame me into finishing more projects, but apparently I am shameless! From now on I will be giving priority to inspiration, rather than motivation.
Unfortunately, CQJP 2013 is going to be a casualty of my dodgy wrist. It will be too much extra hand sewing, so I'll be bowing out before it begins. Maybe next year! In any case, spending more time on the sewing machine instead will be beneficial to many other projects.

To wrap it up, I want to send out hugs and a big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported my blog this year. So many people have been so open, helpful and supportive, and I really appreciate it. I can't wait to see what the next year will bring!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sore Wrist

Hi everyone,

I have a repetitive strain injury happening with my wrist, so I'll be offline for the next two weeks.  Comments will be saved but not read or posted until I am back.  In the meantime, happy sewing!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

CQJP 2013

I know, I need another commitment like a hole in the head, but nevertheless I have just signed up for the 2013 round of the Crazy Quilt Journal Project. For the past year I have been admiring all the work that was done in CQJP 2012, and I couldn't let it pass me by this time.

The big question has been what theme to use.  It hit me today:


I have many books on wool embroidery...

...and I have never made one project from any of them! I haven't made a crazy quilt either, so this will be two birds with one stone. Well, three birds, because I've been wanting to a make a wool quilt too.

I hope to make it a sampler of as many techniques as I can fit in.  Different types of wool embroidery, some needlepoint on waste canvas, wool felt applique... and I'll use up some of those perle cottons I bought too. Dark, neutral fabrics, bright embroidery.

I want it to be a useable size for a throw, so my plan is to go big - 16 x 16" square blocks. A little primitive, big and chunky. I have loads of navy wool suiting that I never had time to make into suits when I was working, and which will be perfect for some sashing between the blocks.

I think weight will be an issue with this quilt, so I will not quilt it, just back it and put in a few ties. I also think it will be wise to avoid buttons and beads for this project, for the same reason.

It's going to be fun!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happily Stripping

Here's the photo that got Eleanor Burns on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.  It's from Failblog, and the caption reads "Nobody wants to see that.. ever."  To me, what's really funny here is that the teenage boys (and Ellen, apparently) who run Failblog assumed that Burns didn't understand the double entendre.

I saw this when it first posted on Failblog, but it wasn't until I watched Eleanor on TQS that I heard about Ellen's involvement. I would love to say that I stopped reading Failblog because I'd matured, but the truth is that the ads became so intrusive that I couldn't hear the videos! Here's my all time favourite photo from Failblog:

Today's title includes the word "happily" because I have just figured out that I can sew strips without pins.  It is extremely freeing!  Not to mention way faster.  Right now I am making placemats.  These ones will be with the Christmas fabric I just bought at Fabricland:


These are nice, wide strips that will finish at 3.5" and are mostly from a lightweight home decor fabric. They went together so well that I was inspired to try it without pins. Then that went so well that I tried it with quilt fabric. First with 2" finished strips, and then when that worked, with 1" finished strips:

The real breakthrough came this morning when I tried to put the final chequerboard together, also without pins:

Every corner came out perfectly! Win!

The secret is to keep the strip with the seam allowances that are ironed upwards on top, with the seams pressed the other way on the bottom strip. This happens automatically when you are alternating directions like I did here. Then the presser foot pushes the top seam against the bottom one, and does the work for you. I have a few strip-pieced quilt projects similar to these waiting in the wings, so I am thrilled to have improved my process like this!

Although I have never read a book from Eleanor Burns, I really enjoyed her Legends show on The Quilt Show. She wrote her first book before she finished her first quilt! I identified with her quite a bit. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

All Washed!

I think it was in June 2011 when I decided to wash all the quilt fabric in my stash. It has been an extremely long process, because, you know, I've kept adding to the pile. But, as of today, I am completely caught up! Woo hoo!

I've learned a couple things along the way:

1. I will never buy anything smaller than a fat quarter ever again. Long quarters and fat eighths are a nightmare to untangle in the washing machine.

2. My stash is never going to get smaller. Despite two supposedly "stash busting" projects, Hourglass and Texas Star, there has been no change in the size of my stash whatsoever. So I think a more reasonable goal from now on will be stasis, rather than reduction.

Now I just have to finish sorting it!

Related Post:

There was still lots to wash in January!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Some Beads for Celtic Spring

I decided that I didn't want to be stuck with all the beads at the end, so I have started to add some as I go along. It has been very rewarding:

Unfortunately, I have also found that I have a tendency sometimes to sit there mesmerized by all the sparkle instead of stitching!

The instructions do not include any information about which threads to use with the beads. Here is what I've been using:

  • Mill Hill beads 62037 (lilac) - DMC 209
  • Mill Hill beads 3025 (purple) - DMC 327
  • Mill Hill beads 3012 (dark green) - DMC 936. These "green" beads are actually half olive green, half dark purple or blue, which gives some unexpected results sometimes. You can see that in the wreath around the figure's head, where many of the "leaves" have turned purple. I think it adds interest, so I have left it:

  • Mill Hill beads 3054 (pearl gold) - DMC 676
  • Mill Hill beads 557 (shiny gold) - DMC 676 or DMC 3822, depending on the location. If the beads are surrounded by the metallic gold Treasure Braid, then I found that 3822 is a better match. If there is a mix of shiny gold and pearl gold beads, then I do them at once with 676. That's what I did in the side border:

It has been very challenging to get decent photos! The colour in the first one is probably the truest - the fabric is the Willow Green Cashel linen. You really have to see it in real life to get the full impact. It is surpassing my expectations!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lima Beans Update

Lima Beans? Update?? I know, the beginning of this project was buried in another post, so it is unlikely anyone remembers it. But, it has been coming along this week:

This is the first of four seed packet patterns from June Grigg that I bought in the early 90s and am finally getting around to.  The stitching is on 18 ct aida, and the texture and coverage are really nice.  I remember now that the texture is what attracted me to the projects in the first place, when I saw the samples in June's booth so long ago. I wish you could all feel it through your screens!

Other than some cross stitch and a few more stars, I've mainly been waffling about some design ideas this past week.  I've been over to Fabricland three days in a row now.  Yesterday I had finished my shopping and was driving out the driveway, when I had another idea and turned around to go back again! Most of my plans have been for the RVQG BOM, but today I cracked and bought some Christmas fabric too.  It's hard to say no to $5 per metre! And we need new Christmas placemats...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Filler Diamonds for Texas Star

This is pretty much all I have been working on this week. Today I have forced myself to take a break to give my hands a rest! Earlier in the week I cut some more fabric for the project, including these stripes, and the white filler diamonds.

I wanted to start putting in the white diamonds now, so I am not stuck with them all at the end. Now that I have done some of them, I am doubly glad of this plan, because the diamonds are somewhat more challenging.  The points are heavier to baste, and the white fabric is heavier too.  That's why there are holes in my finger that have to heal! But if I just add three diamonds to each star for now, I can arrange them as I like at the end:

I will have to leave a few without the diamonds to finish off the top and right edges.

I have also decided to make the whole quilt bigger. My original plan was to make it about 60" square, but recently I have found myself preferring rectangular quilts, so I am going to bump it up to 60" x 80". With a 4" border, that will require 315 stars. I find that 3 lengthwise strips from a fat quarter give me 4 to 5 stars, so I am going to shoot for about 70 fabrics total. That should be plenty of variety!

I have realized that this is probably not going to be a very blog-friendly project, because I think you can only look at so many stars, but I will try to show a few of the more fun fabrics that I have for this quilt.  The only fussy cutting I am going to do is for the stripes, so it is only here and there that a complete motif shows:

Fortunately, a little bit of mystery about how exactly each star will look keeps it interesting!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stripes Win!

And here's why:

Sue Garman just posted this photo (among many other excellent photos) of a French quilt from the exhibit Legendary Quilts at the recent International Quilting Association show. This quilt, Le Nid (The Nest), by Anne-Marie Schmitt, is an original design based on several historic appliqued quilts. When I contacted Sue about using the photo, she very kindly sent me this one as well:

In her post Sue calls the striped background "an interesting and unusual choice." It seems to me that the stripe differentiates this quilt from all the other applique quilts that are out there. Let's face it, there are a lot of similar quilts in the world. It seems to me that something that will make the viewer look twice, and maybe think about the quilt or discuss the quilt a little more, is a good thing.

So as far as my little hexagon quilt goes, the stripes may not be the safe choice, but maybe they will be a more interesting one! Thanks again to Sue for the great photos.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tipsy Tree Brooch

It was like opening Pandora's box when I pulled out the Allegheny Santa the other day! Those Mill Hill kits are addictive!  Here's another quick finish to show:

Cute, eh? This one is almost all beads, with some satin stitches and Smyrna crosses to give variety.  Less than four hours, all in.  My mom wants one too, so I have kept the pattern this time. I think I can dredge up enough supplies from my stash to make one more.

I'm getting in that holiday mood!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Viceroy Butterfly Progress

Here is my progress on the Viceroy butterfly for my Meadow quilt:

I was worried that these were going to take forever, but actually it is not as slow as I thought. I have done the split stitch outline, and made a good start on the long and short stitch filling.

I am trying to get a satiny effect from the long and short stitch, with no obvious lines or bumps. It takes practice! I intend to get serious use from this quilt, so I am keeping the stitches a little shorter, at about 1/4" to 3/8". It is challenging to the keep the stitch length about the same, yet place them randomly enough that no lines or bumps appear. I think my success is only moderate, especially compared to the photo of the original further down, but it is a quilt, not an art piece, so I think I can get away with it. A good opportunity to practice!

I have read some debate online about whether you should come up through the previous stitching, or go down through it. I believe the theory is that coming up through the stitching makes smaller holes and a smoother effect. I have tried it both ways, and what is best for me, now at least, is to go down through the previous stitches, splitting the previous threads.

For the colours, I am using DMC 742, 740, and 720, light to dark:

They are all more orange than they appear in this photo. 740 especially is quite fluorescent! In the original design Susan O'Connor used Madeira stranded silk thread in a range of mahogany:

Switching to DMC cotton gives me the opportunity to punch up the colours. I have been using this photo as my colour inspiration instead. In this case, I think the brighter colours are also more realistic, although realism is less important to me than pretty! Based on the photo, most of the shading will be in the upper wings rather than the lower. I am just about to start that, I think it will be fun!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Auditioning Backgrounds for the Hexagons

The new design for my hexagons has wider borders, so it is not going to fit onto a fat quarter any more. Yesterday I was auditioning backgrounds. My original plan was to use this fabric from my stash:

When I was redesigning it, though, I kept thinking of a wood grain fabric that Connecting Threads used to have. I liked the idea of the flower vine "climbing up" a wooden wall. But, it's all sold out now, so I found this striped fabric that I hoped would give a similar effect:

And then, lo and behold, after I ordered the stripe, I found a yard of the wood grain fabric in my washing pile! I forgot that I bought it. Here it is:

It is interesting what a great design tool this blog is. When I started to write, I was sure that the stripe would be the winner. I thought the wood grain was too dark and it didn't really "read" as wood. But now I am not so sure! The first one is definitely out, now I am seeing a greenish undertone in that one that leans too far in the dreaded "baby poop" direction. But I think I'm on the fence between the wood grain and the stripe.

What do you all think?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Plan for the Hexagons

Remember this?

We all had a debate back in June about the half hexagons along the sides. I finally decided to take out the ones in the corners, but leave the rest. They were not easy to remove, which reassures me that the whole thing will be very sturdy!

My plan at the time was to put this panel in the centre of an appliqued border from Lori Smith's book, Fat Quarter Quilting. This is the quilt I had in mind:

Part of the delay, though, has been that while I really like the idea of the vines and birds, I don't love the flowers themselves. This month I started to play around with something that I might like better, and this is what I came up with:

This is just a little sketch on a 4" x 6" notepad. I have found that it is much easier to make a small sketch, and then enlarge it all later. Also, with these notepads the paper is thin enough that you can put a previous sketch underneath and trace the parts you like and revise the rest. I went through three iterations on this with very little fuss. I did the same thing when I made the template for the flowers.

I thought quite a bit about making the flowers in the borders from hexagons too. I figured that using hexagons that were half the size of the ones in the centre panel would be the right scale. Those hexagons are 3/4", so the flower hexagons would be 3/8". I actually like the challenge of using the small pieces, but when I auditioned some hexagons beside the centre panel, it all felt too stiff. It's just too much, and I like the contrast between the symmetrical hexagon centre and the looser, "fluffier" round-petaled flowers better. I don't have a photo of that, unfortunately. You will have to take my word for it!

Tomorrow I'll show you my debate about the background fabric.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Allegheny Santa

Just a quick finish to show you today.  I've been working on this while waiting for my replacement bulb for my sewing lamp.  It's one of the many Santa ornaments that Mill Hill has produced over the years.  This is one of the three Appalachian Santas.

Usually I work on these while on the road.  They are great take-along projects, and can be done in a small space and with any reasonable light.  I've done quite a few over the years!

In any case, my new bulb arrived yesterday, so now I am spoiled for choice while I consider what's next!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

You Know it was Cheap...

These were sold side by side at the store, but you can see they are probably not both licenced by Maywood Studio!  I am pretty sure, though, that they were both less than $5/yd.  Rite Aid stopped carrying fabric shortly after I bought these - maybe this dodgy supplier was the reason! The fabric quality is ok, with no obvious flaws, so I am happy to have them.

I have been working out the yardage I will need to complete the RVQG BOM.  I bought one yard of the stars, and only half a yard of the moons, and both have already been cut into for another project.  The blocks will all finish at 12" square, and many are applique so I will need the whole square.  But I have worked out that if I piece some of the backgrounds in quarters, there will be enough.  And actually, that will probably be more interesting too!

In any case, I intend to do the whole thing from my stash.  I have plenty of batiks that I've bought over the years "just because," so this is my chance to use them!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Block

As promised, here is my second block this month for the RVQG BOM:

I found this to be a pretty challenging block.  The seam ripper was out more than once!  But I am already glad that I started this project, because it is giving me a chance to tweak my skills in a low-risk environment.

I made a very slight modification to the pattern by adding an angle to the stem.  I think it gives him a slightly rakish look!  I was up last night making more extensive modifications to most of the other blocks, and I designed the setting and border as well!

This is all because my sewing light burned out over the weekend, and I am waiting for the replacement bulb to arrive.  So all those new hand sewing projects I showed you last week are on hold!  No worries, though, I have plenty of other stuff to do.  ;)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall Leaves Block

Here's my version of the latest Block of the Month at my guild Rouge Valley. I did the whole thing today, so I am pretty pleased with myself. I made my own paper foundations again, and it went pretty quickly. It was a little challenging to put the four leaves together, especially at the point of the dark green fabrics, so it's not exactly perfect. But close enough!

This BOM is a two-year project with twelve blocks and a calendar theme. The first year has already gone, and you can see the first seven blocks here. The patterns are members-only, but they are not hard to figure out if you are so inclined.

I started thinking about doing this project over the summer while I was working on the RVQG website. To me, the challenge is to tie all the blocks together. I thought that might best be achieved by using a consistent background fabric for every block. I thought a dark background would look best, given the wide range of colours in the blocks, but I didn't want to use black. The "calendar" theme reminded me of the moon and the stars, and I remembered this night sky fabric in my stash. I bought it at the San Mateo Rite-Aid over ten years ago!  They had great deals on fabric. But anyway, I am really happy with how it looks.

Tomorrow I intend to do the pumpkin.  The foundation is already made and the fabric is cut, so hopefully it will go together quickly too.  The long term plan is to do two blocks per month, the latest one and one from last year.  By May I should be all caught up!

Friday, October 12, 2012

New Project - Texas Star

My third new project this week is another English Paper Piecing project, Texas Star:

There are probably dozens of different quilts called "Texas Star."  This one is from the 1940s, and was one of the projects in the first quilting book I ever bought, Scrap Quilts by Judy Martin (1985).

There are three quilts in this book that are on my quilting bucket list, however everything in the book is done from templates, and I never got the hang of them.  I would not be a quilter today if we were still piecing from templates!

I did try, though.  I started this quilt back in the late 80s using samples of home decor fabric, sewn on the machine.  I abandoned the yellow middles almost immediately, but I did manage to make around 200 stars.  I didn't get very far with joining them together though, and it became my second quilt UFO.  I found it all in my big stash clean-out 18 months ago.  Both this one and my first UFO from the late 70s went in the garbage.  Some of you may cringe at the thought, but for me it was very helpful to start fresh(er).

So when I discovered English Paper Piecing, this quilt immediately came to mind.  The original is based on 1.5" diamonds, but I wanted to make it a little smaller, so I am using 1.25" diamonds and 5/8" hexagons and jewels.  I emailed the people at Paper Pieces to ask about a custom order for the 5/8" jewels, and they were able to accomodate me immediately.  It did not even cost any more than a regular stock item, and they are now permanently added to their website.  I just love this company!

I have bought a little fabric for this quilt, but mostly I plan to use up the 1930s reproductions in my stash.  In the book Martin calls the mix of colours and use of black "far from ideal," but to me that is part of the charm, so I am hoping to duplicate the look.

None of my tv projects recently have involved fabric, so it is nice to be back to it again.  Do you think I have enough to do now?
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